23 May 2011

A Step Too Far

First of all, I'd just like to apologize for the monumental wait between my last update and this post. It's been a bit hectic in my life, not to mention the flaming hula hoops the game's had me jumping through in order to get a single post done. The lag was almost unbearable (though seems to be in control for now, thanks to some ingenuous mod merging). I'm going to try to keep on top of things better, though my plans for the Maltese Llama might have to change slightly. Anyways, this is the first part of the finale, so I hope everyone enjoys it! It's been a crazy few months, and I'm really glad to have met you all. You guys have been great friends to me when others haven't, and you've definitely inspired me to keep writing this and keep striving to expand my photography and writing skills. So thank you, and I'll shut up now so you can read!

The steady chorus of beeps monitoring her vital signs interrupted the pleasant dream Angie had been having. She had been floating in limbo for who knew how long, but the louder the beeps got, the more conscious she was of the pain that covered her entire being. She knew that something vaguely bad had happened to her, but she couldn't remember what, or why. Where am I? she wondered. And why is my head throbbing? As she blinked her eyes slowly and fought the blurriness that threatened to take over, she glanced around the room and saw a familiar face. 

Jane Pesce sat in one of the uncomfortable armchairs that littered her hospital room, exhausted, passed out, and snoring softly. Angie was surprisingly touched to see that the blonde had waited at her bedside- but what she didn't know was that Jane still blamed herself for Angie's current predicament. She'd accompanied Moe to the hospital every chance she had, and tonight was merely the latest in a string of hours-long vigils.

Moe Pesce stood across the hospital room, reading her charts and writing prescription orders. She was strangely comforted by the presence of people she knew, even if they weren't the closest of friends. Her parents were long since dead, and it was nice to have someone there when she woke up. Though from the looks of it, several people had been by to visit while she'd been asleep. 

"Wha- what happened?" Angie struggled to speak, her throat still sore from whatever she'd been through. "Why am I in the hospital?" 

Moe cleared his throat and walked over to her bed, putting the chart down as he looked at her. "There's no easy way to say this, Angie. You were... attacked. We don't know who did it, or why. The Lakeview bartender found you behind the bar, where you were apparently waiting to meet with my wife." His eyebrows raised skeptically, but he pronounced no judgment. Clearly, whatever the two had been up to had been Jane's idea- and they'd had that fight several times over the past few days. There was no sense in bringing it up with Angie when it would only upset her even further.

"At any rate, there was a sizable lump on the base of your head, but it appears that there's been no real damage other than the concussion. You've been out for a few days, so you've had a little bit of time to recuperate, but we'd like to keep you for examination for a bit. You're not completely out of the woods yet," Moe cautioned hastily. "But you're almost there. There's absolutely nothing to worry about, Ms. Morris."

"But it hurts so badly..." Angie frowned. "You're sure nothing's seriously wrong?"

"Well, unfortunately, that's par for the course," Moe explained apologetically. "Your body's been through a lot, and you're going to experience a considerable amount of pain for a little while. It appears that whoever attacked you hit you from behind with a blunt object, but was not around by the time the bartender had arrived on the scene a few seconds later. He or she must have felt that they had achieved their purpose, whether that was simply to knock you out, or... something else." Moe's voice trailed off uncertainly as he skirted around the idea that someone had been out to actually kill her, rather than merely harm her. 

"But the good news is, we have tons of lovely painkillers to help you feel better," Moe added brightly. "Such as this." He handed her a pill that was easily the size of a small dog, and she eyed it skeptically- but still took it. Anything was better than being in this much pain. 

She hesitated for only a few seconds before swallowing the giant pill. Normally, she couldn't stand medicine of any kind, but there was a limit to her bravado. Putting up a strong facade was less important than actually feeling better, and she slipped back into unconsciousness gratefully, a loopy smile playing on her face as the medicine kicked in. 

Moe watched from her bedside until he was absolutely sure that Angie had fallen asleep, then carefully pulled the blanket over her before drawing the curtains around her bed closed. 

Jane stirred from her own slumber as she heard the rustling of the curtain. "Hey- how's she doing?" she asked, her words still slurred from sleepiness. Moe tried to conceal a frown as he made his way over to the corner of the room that had become Jane's temporary camp. Despite their incessant bickering, there was still much that Moe had kept to himself, bottling it up to avoid the Big Fight- the one that would lead to the inevitable. Their marriage, like Angie's health, had teetered in the balance over the past few days, and while they'd reached a delicate detente, any small spark had the potential to start a fire that neither one of them would be able to put out. The proverbial ball was completely in Moe's court now, but he didn't know what he wanted- and that scared him more than anything else that had happened. 

"She's hanging in there, for now," he replied eventually. "The emotional trauma's going to be harder than the physical trauma, when it comes to her recovery." 

A sharp knock at the door interrupted their conversation. "Can I come in?" Matt's voice was tentative and uncertain, as if he didn't know whether or not he should enter the room- though whether this was because of the tension between Moe and Jane or the possibility that the patient needed rest, he wasn't sure. 

Moe smiled enthusiastically, perhaps a bit too grateful for the interruption. "No, no, come on in!" He waved Matt into the room. "We were just discussing Angie's prognosis."

"Oh yeah? How does it look? I mean... she's going to be okay, right?" He walked into the room cautiously, glancing at the closed curtain with a barely-concealed look of anxiety and concern. "She's really the only friend I have... If anything..." His voice trailed off feebly, as if by avoiding saying the words out loud, they wouldn't come true. 

"Oh, no need to worry about that, Mr. Schtick," Moe assured him cheerfully. "Angie's going to be just fine. She just needs a little rest and relaxation- she'll be up on her feet in no time." 

Matt breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much, Doc... You don't know how worried I am." He clasped Moe's hand and shook it enthusiastically, a smile breaking out onto his face for the first time since he'd stepped foot into the room. 

"She is sleeping, however, so she needs her rest," Moe pointed out. "You're more than welcome to stay, but she won't exactly be responsive." He chuckled slightly to himself. 

"That's all right, I'll come back later." Matt smiled appreciatively and opened the door again. "Thanks for the update, Doc!" 

"I might as well leave too then, right?" Jane stood up and brushed off her jeans. "I'm sure Mom doesn't want to watch the kids for another ten hours." She grabbed her keys and headed for the door. 

"Jane, wait." Moe stopped her with a hand on her arm. "You mentioned that she was meeting you there to give you some book. I found this in her purse, thought you might want to read it, since she never got a chance to give it to you." He handed her a brightly-colored book.

"Oh... Thanks." Jane attempted to smile at him, but it felt too fake. After weeks of superficial banter and insincere smiles, she couldn't bring herself to do it anymore. She was too exhausted. 

When she got downstairs, the waiting room was largely empty, much to her relief. The rare peace and quiet was just what she needed to delve into this mysterious book that had caused Angie so much trouble. 

As she flicked through its pages, she realized that it wasn't a book- it was Amy's diary. Angie must have found it when she was going through the boxes in the attic. Whatever was in here had been enough to make Angie call her and ask to meet with her, and if Jane's instincts were right, it was the reason she'd been attacked. It was probable that the attacker and the murderer were the same person, and if he or she were willing to attack Angie to prevent anyone from seeing the diary, she knew that it had to contain some fairly incriminating information- information the murderer didn't want her to know. 

The first entries were from what would have been the last year of her life, and Jane skimmed each page rapidly, looking for anything that could be useful in discovering the attacker's identity. 

It appeared that after Chase had moved to Barnacle Bay, unknowingly leaving her behind to raise their daughter as a single mom, Amy had been forced to move to a small house hidden away on the highly undesirable back-roads of Twinbrook. It had been more swamp than house, but Amy had managed to make it a home. 

By the time Lucy was a toddler, Amy's art sales were fizzling and it was difficult for her to find a gallery willing to display her work. Her reputation as an artist had suffered severely after a long hiatus during her pregnancy, and when she returned to her work, it was difficult to build her following up again. She'd worked feverishly, producing painting after painting- but even after a few successful sales, she was still barely breaking even. 

After a year of struggling to make a living, Amy had been forced to turn to a rather undesirable source of income. A wealthy donor had paid her a large sum of money to recreate a famous painting that had been on display in the local museum, and she'd happily obliged. She'd had no way of knowing what the customer had planned for the forgery, and in the end, she'd had only her suspicions, and precious little proof. It was difficult to say whether or not the painting hanging in the museum was the original or the fake, and Amy couldn't go to the police without revealing the part she'd played in the switch- if, indeed, a switch had been made. So she'd kept her mouth shut, telling no one about the unusual job. 

But someone had found out. 

"What do you want?" Amy had begged, desperate to keep her daughter safe by any means. The blackmailer had been specific in her demands, but Amy simply didn't have the money. The majority of her client's payment had gone towards the bills that had been piling up, and what she was left with was barely enough to provide food and diapers for Lucy. Surely, the blackmailer could see that, Amy had plead. 

But the blackmailer had refused to change the demands. Amy would pay the money, or she would pay for her crime. The choice was hers. 

The blackmailer hadn't bothered to conceal her identity. Perhaps she had known that Amy would never have gone to the police, or perhaps it was simply Jenni's legendary ego blinding her to the danger of what she was doing. Whatever the reason, Jenni Jones-Brown had certainly not been worried about what she was doing to Amy, or what she could potentially be doing to herself. 

She had arranged to meet Amy in the woods at eight PM, the night that Amy had been discovered dead. The entry detailing the blackmail phone call was the last entry in the diary, and when Jane finally closed the book and put it back down, she was dumbfounded. Could it be that she'd finally received the answers to the questions that had plagued her for months? Was Jenni Jones-Brown responsible for Amy's murder? At the very least, she had been one of the last people to see Amy alive- she was certainly worth a visit. 

Jenni's large house in the rich section of Twinbrook was a marked contrast to the slum Amy had found herself living in during the last years of her life, and Jane couldn't help but feel bad for the redhead she'd never known. What could Jenni have possibly needed with the blackmail money? She'd certainly never known what it was like to need money a day in her life. 

Jane began her interrogation perhaps a bit more harshly than she ought to have, but her words were tinged with the anger she felt on Amy's behalf. "Why were you blackmailing Amy Jenkins?" Jane demanded viciously. "And what happened when you met her in the woods?" 

Jenni stared at the window, ostensibly trying to gather her composure- but Jane knew that she was simply trying to compose her lie. "Nothing happened that night," Jenni replied finally. "She never met me in the woods, and I never got my money. Satisfied?" 

Jane shook her head. "You're lying," she insisted. "You were the last person to see her alive, and you certainly had the motive and opportunity." 

Jenni whirled around, flailing her arms in anger. "Why would I have killed her if I were blackmailing her? Don't you think I would have wanted to wait around for the payout?" 

"Not if you'd already received the blackmail money!" Jane pointed out. "You had every reason to want Amy Jenkins dead. She was the reason Chase left you all those years ago, and you wanted to destroy her for it. And when you found out about the forgeries, you decided that blackmailing her would be the perfect opportunity." 

"She could hardly afford it," Jane continued, her anger mounting. "And you knew it. You knew that you'd be bleeding her dry, but you didn't care. You probably planned on turning her in anyways after she'd given you the money. What happened that night?" Jane yelled, her fury getting the better of her. "Did she turn the tables on you? Refuse to give you the money? Did she deny the forgeries, knowing you had no proof? Why did you kill Amy Jenkins?

Jenni was silent for a long time, her indignation boiling within her and threatening to spill over. When she finally spoke, her words were quiet but deadly. "You don't know anything, Pesce. Anything. You think you've figured everything out, but you couldn't be more wrong. I wasn't there when Amy died, and I certainly don't know who was. In fact, I was at the Red Rendezvous all night. I've got about ten witnesses. Amy never showed for our meeting, I never received a drop of money from her, and what's more- you've got no proof for any of this. Just a crazy woman's delusions." She walked over to the front door and gestured to the street. "Now get out of my house. I don't want to hear from you ever again."

Jane was fairly trembling with anger as she stumbled down the marble steps, but she knew that part of Jenni's speech had been entirely too accurate. She didn't have any proof, other than Amy's diary- and if Jenni said that she had witnesses, she was more than likely telling the truth. But if Jenni hadn't murdered Amy that night, who had? 

Jenni watched as Jane disappeared down the street, her anxiety increasing with every passing second. As soon as Jane was out of sight, Jenni whipped out her cell phone and dialed a number she hadn't called in years. 

"Yes, hello? It's me... We've got a major problem," Jenni announced hurriedly. Her panic was all too justified; even if Jane hadn't stumbled on to the truth yet, she was far too close for Jenni's comfort. 

"Yes, it's that Pesce woman.... She knows."

Jane found herself standing in front of Amy's grave as her helplessness and anger boiled over. Every feeling of rage, sorrow, loss, and futility from the past few weeks had finally broken her. Her life was in shambles, she was no closer to finding out who the murderer was, and there was no telling when or where they would strike next. What part of her life would this mystery ruin next? It had already taken her home and her marriage; what would be next? Her parents? Her job? Her kids? 

The thought of any one of those was too much for Jane, and she felt the familiar exhaustion threatening to sweep over her once again. What had she done? Why hadn't she stopped when Moe had told her to? She was too far into it now, too involved to let it go. And she owed it to this stranger, this mysterious person whose life was so tied to her own now. She needed to find justice for Amy- for both of them, now. It was the only way to keep the murderer from hurting her family any further. But how could she possibly find out who the murderer was? There was nothing in the diary to tell her who else would have had any motive to kill Amy... unless....

A sudden thought struck Jane, and she knew with a startling certainty that she had to be right. There was only one other person Amy had mentioned meeting with that day, one other person who might have seen Amy before her death. As she thought back over the past few months, all of the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall into place. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed her mother's number frantically. 

"Mom... I need you to keep the kids for just a little bit more. I'm really sorry, I know they're a handful... but I think I finally know who's been doing all of this. I just need to check on one last thing, and then I'll be home. I hope you don't mind, I know the twins are being particularly difficult today..." 

Jane was so focused on her conversation that she didn't feel the eyes that were trained on her in the darkness, or hear the footsteps that fell almost silently on the graveyard's grass. It wasn't until she felt the hand grab her elbow that she whirled around in shock, dropping her phone in the process. 

"It's you!" she gasped, stumbling backwards. The attacker merely smiled and forced a piece of dampened cloth over her mouth, and the last thing Jane remembered hearing before the blackness swallowed her up was her mother's voice calling out her name. 

"Jane? Jane? Are you there? What happened?"

02 May 2011

The 30 Day Sim Challenge: Days 9, 10, and 11

Day 9 - Favorite and least favorite expansion pack or version of the game
I may be the only one who thinks so, but World Adventures is easily my favorite expansion pack. Maybe it's because of my archaeological roots, maybe it's because any Sim looks hot dressed as Indiana Jones, maybe it's because I really loved the quest system, even if the replay value wasn't so great. Take your pick. The main reason I adored this expansion pack was because of Egypt. Egyptology is my first love, and having my Sims be able to share that... Well, it was awesome. I also have a bit of a sentimental tie to this game- my sister bought it for me for Christmas the year it came out, not realizing that I didn't have the first game and that my crappy laptop wasn't even capable of playing it. So I waited over a year to be able to play this game, and by the time I was able to, the anticipation made it well worth it! 

My least favorite EP, while I don't have a picture of it up here, is Late Night. But only some aspects of Late Night- and even then, I still love the pack as a whole. I really liked how they did vampires, as opposed to Sims 2. And after seeing them played out in stories by writers such as PiB, I can easily see how badass they can be. That being said, I detest the celebrity system, and I really hate the paparazzi. I do like the gossip/rumors system, but it never really came into play whenever I played Bridgeport. My Sims never got accused of anything. The only REALLY good part of this expansion pack, in my opinion, are the bars. I adore the bars and the drinks. While there are some parts of WA that suck, there are also some parts of LN that are awesome. So it's really a mixed bag, and I can't honestly say I've hated anything the Sims have brought us!

Day 10 - Your favorite celebrity as a Sim (made by you)
To anybody who knows me well, this one's pretty obvious- my favorite celebrity is Nathan Fillion. However, I really don't make celebrity Sims... well, ever. This is the first I've attempted, and I personally don't think it looks a damn thing like him. But, at least I've got something to show for the challenge? XD MOVING ON.

Day 11 - Favorite Sim living in the neighborhood that you didn’t create
If you'd asked me a week or so ago, I don't know who I would have said was my favorite Sim in my neighborhood that I didn't make. But after a certain incident a few days ago... The front runner is clearly Jebediah Kane. The minute I moved him into my neighborhood, he became the town Vigilante, which consisted of him running around "solving crimes" and kicking the bad guys' asses- which, if you know anything about Jeb, is pretty damn ironic. Funnily enough, a few weeks after taking up the position of Vigilante, he abandoned that to become the town Cat Burglar- which seems to suit him so well that he's getting lazy.

I switched back to the Pesce/Evan household after playing with the murderer, and everyone was sporting negative moodlets from seeing Jeb steal from them. But did they call the cops? Nope. Instead, they were all crowded into the kitchen while Jeb strolled up the stairs and decided to take a nap in the master bedroom. Jane marched right in there and bitched at him until he left. It amused me so greatly that he is without a doubt my favorite non-Amelia-created Sim. He's given me so much entertainment in my game. 

Sorry for the huge delay in the meme posts, guys! What with the issue with my game and the house fire, I'm really behind. I'm planning on doing 3 a day until I catch up!

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